Tag Archives: impact

Peak bagging

As someone who likes to be taken seriously, I probably shouldn’t begin this post by publishing such a goofy picture of myself. But here I go, happily sharing this photo, as a way of illustrating a point about goal-setting.

This picture was taken on July 2nd atop Mt. Isolation, an obscure and (true to its name) difficult-to-reach New Hampshire mountain that has an elevation of either 4,002, 4,003, or 4,004 feet, depending on the guidebook. Regardless of its exact altitude, the fact that the summit is 4,000-and-something feet high makes Mt. Isolation one of forty-eight 4,000-foot peaks in the state. And the reason you see me so exultant, relieved, and, well, just a bit inebriated, is that climbing Mt. Isolation meant that I had now climbed all forty-eight mountains, and that moment was the culmination of a personal eight-year quest. I was at long last a member of the 4,000-Footer Club. Continue reading

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Think Before You Endow

I was recently asked at a public forum why I don’t like endowments. I answered: “It’s not so much that I don’t like endowments. It’s that nonprofits and their donors like endowments too much.”

Endowments have become the default destination for major gifts and bequests. If someone dies and leaves an organization a lot of money, the odds are good that the bequest will come with instructions to create an endowment in the name of the deceased. If a nonprofit launches a major campaign, there is inevitably a significant endowment component. As I’ve said before, endowments feel good. Endowments connote a certain sense of immortality. And endowments seem like a prudent investment. But do endowments, paying out 4% or so of their assets a year, have all that much impact? Or are there better ways to direct the donors’ generosity? Continue reading

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A More Powerful Kind of Legacy

My friend Susan is a fan of my blog and usually sends a note to say that she agreed with what I wrote that week. But not when she read my post, “An Approach to Funding That Might Actually Work.”

“What’s your big problem with perpetual endowments?” she asked. “I don’t have kids, and I want to leave my mark in the world. I really like the idea of creating a fund with my name on it that will work forever for a cause I care about.”

Susan, a wonderful woman and an active environmentalist, in this case is being very traditional. And she’s not alone. Nearly every time I question the assumption that permanent endowments are a godsend for each and every nonprofit, people respond with shock. But question it I do. Continue reading

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As Rich as Rockefeller?

All of you who are struggling to get your next foundation grant application pulled together and those of you who work earnestly as foundation staff or trustees may want to pause and think about how these entities – the powerful, life-giving, and capricious foundations – came into existence. Here’s the short version.

Though charitable foundations have a long history in the United States (some credit Benjamin Franklin with creating the first foundation, the progenitor of the Philadelphia Foundation), they did not gain prominence until early in the twentieth century.

The first two permanent foundations of note were created by Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Let’s look at Rockefeller, courtesy of “Titan,” a remarkable biography by Ron Chernow. Continue reading

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